Let's Hear It For The Fans

It's hard to come up with an new and creative spin on how, from the craptastic ashes of the Minnesota Vikings' 2010 season, a majestic phoenix could rise and wing our beloved Purple back to greatness, but I'm really going to make a stab at it. At this point options are kind of limited for Vikings fans. We can either whine and moan about how the Vikings always find a way to break our hearts, or we can find a way to put disappointment behind us and look forward with some kind of hope. Actually, there's still the option of tossing back a couple of valium and buying that one-way ticket to Costa Rica and never thinking about the Vikings, the NFL, or football again, but I've mostly given up that idea. Mostly.

No, like the rest of you here on the Daily Norseman, I'm not going to abandon the Vikings. Instead, I've tried to think about 2010 in terms of that Jerry Springer recap, you know that "moral-of-the-story" thing he would do after he got people to unleash a whole mess of crazy on his show, to explore what we've learned besides the fact that even sweet grandmas can throw a mean left hook given the right inducement.

The more I think about it, the more it seems that if we had to vote for a Minnesota Vikings MVP in 2010, it should be the Vikings fans. In a season rife with drama and disappointment, the Vikings fans did an almost heroic job of hanging in there with our team.

With the exception of the 1970s which was a pretty boss decade for the Vikings, Minnesota has at least one lousy season every decade. This last decade was a bit worse than usual because there were four seasons when the Vikings won less than half of their games and  two seasons when they merely broke even between wins and losses. So, for six out of the last ten years the Vikings have had a mediocre to crappy record. It helps put 2010 into perspective because 2001, 2002 and 2006 were as bad or worse than 2010. What made 2010 seem so much worse was how great 2009 had been.

That painful jaunt through the Vikings sub-par records for the last decade was just an overly elaborate set-up to my attempt to find the good in this steaming pile of disappointment. There is nothing like a brilliant, winning season, say like 2009, to attract fans. However, I don't think you have the right to call yourself a fan, a real fan, unless you cheer for a team during a losing season. Until then, as far as I'm concerned, you're just a fan intern.

For example, a lot of people became Vikings fans during the 1970s which, as I said earlier, was a totally boss era for the Vikings. They were the defensively dominant Purple People Eaters who made three of their four trips to the Super Bowl in that decade. As Ted said in his great piece about the wonder of outdoor football, the Vikings of that era were some of the toughest mamba jambas to play the game of football. Yep, the 1970s were a great time to become a Vikings fan, but for those who remained Vikings fans during 1984, the infamous Les Steckel year, you my friends, you get props and a shiny gold star. I was only in kindergarten at the time so my memories of the 1984 season are kind of fuzzy.

And, like those fine folks who managed to hold on through the 1984 season, the people who became Vikings fans in 2008 and 2009 when our Vikings were the NFC North division champions and made it through 2010 with their purple pride somehow intact, you are now full-fledged Vikings fans. Embrace the pain and the paradox of our team.

If I had to come up with just one thing to hate it would have to be something that makes me sounds deep and wise and altruistic, and, somehow, I don't think black jelly beans will cut it. However, if we came up with a bigger, longer, itemized list of the things I hate, bandwagon fans would be somewhere in the top 50%.

Bandwagon fans make me want to growl and grind my teeth. I don't like them. I don't like them with green eggs and ham. I do not like them Sam I am. So if there is anything to be gained from a craptastic season like 2010, it's that the bandwagon fans who cheered for the Vikings the previous two seasons have drifted off to give their fickle support to the Packers and the people left are the real Vikings fans who cheer for the Vikings even when their home games are played on Detroit's Ford Field or the University of Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium.

As 2010 dragged on and it became painfully clear that it would not be a repeat of 2009, I expected a pretty big drop-off in Viking support from the local populace here in Minnesota. But I was pleasantly surprised at how many people were still showing their horns no matter how lousy things were going for our team. For example, I remember one day when I needed to get away from all things football for a couple hours and so I went to a sanctuary of all things dainty and girly--the teashop. I was going to eat scones, drink tea with my pinkie in the air, and enjoy not thinking about football for a little while. But that isn't what happened. Instead, I sat there, eating my scone and drinking my tea while I eavesdropped on the grandmas sitting at the table behind me who were talking about what the Vikings needed to do to turn the season around. Now, for all you manly men out there who have never been to a teashop let me explain something, conversations about football are something of a rarity in places where there are more frilly doilies and dainty teacups than you can shake a stick at.

That those little, old ladies were so involved with the Vikings' season that they simply had to discuss the Vikings' season over floral teacups is both cute and kind of sassy. That those ladies weren't atypical suggests that the Minnesota Vikings have better fans than they had any reason to expect this season. Yes, even in a season where our Vikings made under-performing and drama as commonplace as black nail polish on goths, people were still wearing their Vikings shirts in the middle of the week, were still putting up purple and gold mailboxes, and were still adorning their vehicles with Vikings decals and flags.

So, for all this Purple Pride in the face of adversity and general crappiness, I think the Vikings' fans deserve some kind of acknowledgment. I would prefer my allotment of the aforementioned acknowledgment in the form of cash or tropical vacations, but I'll take heartfelt thanks too. After a season like 2010, the Vikings faithful deserve at least that much.

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